A run-a-ball century from Richard Oliver and a 10-year best all-round performance from Richard Stevens (51 not out, 3-16 and a match-changing catch) kept Reigate Priory in first place in the Surrey Championship premier league standings, Saturday, as the Llamas cruised past Normandy by 142 runs.
Reigate had won the toss and batted first but until he was out only Oliver found the batting to be easy in the first 30 overs, despite a weakened Normandy attack which featured four of its six bowlers bowling for the first time in the first XI this season.
In a surprise move, Normandy opened the bowling with spinner Vignesh Venkateswaran, who in 2015 topped the league bowling stats with 48 wickets in the season. But it worked. In his second over Venkateswaran had Andy Delmont caught by Chris Jones for 2, ending Delmont’s five-game run of big scores for the home club.
Brad Scriven and Oliver put on 49 together before Venkateswaran and Jones swapped roles with Venkateswaran taking the catch off the bowling of former Surrey 2nd XI off-spin bowler Jones. Scriven was out for 19 at 54-2.
Priory skipper Chris Murtagh joined Oliver for the defining partnership of the innings as he and Oliver put on 115 for the third wicket in 20 overs. Oliver’s 50 came up in 47 balls with two 6’s and five 4’s. Murtagh, meanwhile took 24 balls to get into double figures.
One of the reasons Oliver’s batting is so exciting to watch is because he frequently puts the ball into the air relying on his timing and placing of the ball to avoid the fielders. At times he seems to be teasing the opposition fielders. There was one shot where the ball just cleared the head of deep mid-off as the fielder strained every sinew to make the catch only to end clutching at thin air.
It should be noted, though, that Oliver dies by the sword as well, being out ‘caught’ in nine of his 13 innings this year.
Oliver’s hundred – his second against Normandy this season - came in 85 balls. He reached the target in the grand manner with a six (just clearing the fielders), a shot that also brought up Reigate’s 150 as well as the 100 partnership with Murtagh. Of this 100-run partnership Oliver had dominated with 73 runs, Murtagh, happy to play second fiddle, scoring only 14 runs with 14 extras.
When Oliver was out in the 30th over at 169-4 – caught at deep point for 112 from 101 balls – he had hit three 6’s and 15 4’s in a chanceless innings.
Murtagh followed Oliver back to the pavilion in the next over, just three balls later, caught by Tim Ward for 20 off 48 balls, giving left-arm spinner Chris Miles a wicket in his first bowl for the Normandy 1sts this summer.
Dahl followed two overs later, leg before to Miles at 177-5 and Luke Haughton was caught off the spin of Austin for 8 at 195-6 in the 38th over. This also was Austin’s first bowl and first wicket of the year for the Normandy first team, his position normally being that of wicket-keeper.
Stevens now joined Hall and the pair put on 51 together in nine overs before Hall was caught at deep mid-wicket by Jones off Oskar Kolk’s bowling for 34 in 50 balls. Like Miles and Austin, this was Kolk’s first wicket and first bowl of the season for the Normandy first XI.
Stevens, now on 24 not out, had 22 more balls left in the innings to reach his 50 – his first in his 66 innings for the 1st XI over 10 seasons. He did so from the last ball of the innings, hitting a ‘2’ off Miles, after hitting a 6 two balls earlier.
Stevens and number 9 batsman Luke Beaven scored 40 runs between them in those last 22 balls, with Stevens scoring 27 of them, Beaven 7 and extras accounting for the remaining six runs as Reigate ended on 286-7 from 50 overs.
When Normandy batted, Stevens joined the action almost immediately in the fourth over of the innings by an ‘amazing’ catch, according to Murtagh, off Will Hodson’s bowling. This dismissed Normandy’s prolific Australian professional Ward, a batsman with 575 runs to his credit so far this season at an average of over 50.
Ward hit Hodson firmly over the direction of mid-off. However Stevens leapt into the air, extending his 6 foot 3 inches frame to its maximum and plucked the ball away from its route to the boundary.
With Normandy missing some five front line bowlers for a variety of reasons (injury, vacation or having moved away), the side also was missing some five top line batsmen from their championship-winning side of last year for similar reasons.
For all of that Normandy can bring to the crease batsmen of such calibre as Jones (average of 35.79 last year), Oliver Batchelor who has a Surrey 2nd XI pedigree and Kolk (average of 47.33 in 2017).
However Jones was the next to go for 16 at 44-2, when his middle stump went flying out of the ground, courtesy of Will Hodson charging in from the Blue Anchor End.
And while Batchelor looked at ease in making 37 in 64 balls, his off stump went flying as Hodson brought his 10 over spell to a close at 74-3.
This spell of bowling underlined Hodson’s contribution to the Priory’s season so far. The bowling was economical (27 runs off 10 overs) and he dispatched three of the opposition’s top batsmen (Ward, Jones and Batchelor) before retiring to the outfield.
Austin lasted only a few overs before being bowled by Beaven for 3 at 88-4.
By now Michael Munday was bowling in tandem with Beaven and he was the spinner to get rid of Normandy’s remaining danger, Kolk, who was caught and bowled by a diving Munday at 106-5 in the 30th over.
Any hopes Normandy had of the lower order batsmen providing any serious resistance diminished when Stevens joined Munday in the attack.
First Munday bowled Venkateswaran for 2 at 121-6. Then Stevens, finding reverse swing, bowled Callum Job, first ball at 122-7.
Conor Young, who did provide some fightback in scoring 32 from 37 balls, was next to go when his leg stump was rooted out of the ground in Stevens’s 5th over at 138-8.
Dahl took over from Munday at the Blue Anchor End, and from the last ball of his only over he bowled Chris Hampton, who was keeping wicket for Normandy in this game, for 0 at 141-9. This was the seventh Normandy batsman who was bowled during this innings.
The end came in the next over, the 39th, when Stevens had Andrew Hemingway leg before for 7 at 144 all out.
While Stevens’s 3-16 in six overs did not represent his best bowling figures ever for the Priory it was his best bowling since his 4-33 against Sunbury in June 2016.
Of the other bowlers, Beaven took 1-25 in seven overs, Munday 2-38 in eight overs and Dahl 1-1 in one over.
With East Molesey scoring a big win against Banstead, Normandy’s loss against the Llamas dumps them into bottom place in the league standings – quite a comedown from last year when they won the league at a canter.
After round 14 in the season, Reigate Priory currently is on 249 points and Weybridge is on 239. In third place currently is Sunbury with 177 points. With only four games to go only two teams effectively can win the championship and these two teams meet on August 25th when Weybridge visits Reigate at Reigate.
Meanwhile this Saturday the Reigate side travels to Sutton looking for revenge for its only defeat this summer at the hands of the Sutton team. Sutton versus Reigate Priory starts at noon. Updated 18:43 - 31 Aug 2018 by Antony Ireland